Sanctions hurt innocent children, not Saddam's power

August 6,  will mark the 10th anniversary of the sanctions
on Iraq.  This anniversary should be no more cause for
celebration than the 55th anniversary of Hiroshima should
be. August 6 should serve as a day for careful thought about
how our lone superpower nation conducts itself in the
international sphere.

The sanctions were initiated in order to reverse Saddam
Hussein's conquest of his neighbor; they were cheered at the
time by many anti-war activists as being a better form of
coercion than the more traditional war which followed.  Now
anti-war activists along with many others are working to end
the sanctions.  What has happened to those living in Iraq is
nothing short of a tragedy.

After the bombing campaigns which restored Kuwait to its
nicer dictatorship, the United Nations extended the
sanctions regime until such a time as Iraq was disarmed and
met a number of other conditions. Saddam Hussein's regime
refused to cooperate fully with the arms inspections and the
sanctions remain firmly in place.

As a result of the sanctions, people in Iraq have had to
suffer under two brutal regimes.  One was familiar to them:
it was the same Baghdad administration that ruled for years
with the support of Washington D.C.  The suffering imposed
by the sanctions regime was new.  The Iraqis were used to
living in a relatively affluent nation with no political
rights.  A few months and 140,000 tons of explosives later,
they lived in former cities: still with no political rights.
 Iraq which had imported 70% of its food, was now cut off
from trade.

Iraq, which had the best medical care in the Middle East,
now did not even have clean water.  The water sanitation and
pumping plants were intentionally destroyed during the war
and the sanctions prevented anyone from repairing them.
After years of crumbling infrastructure, the United Nations
set up an oil-for-food program in order to prevent the
situation from further deteriorating.  Several former
humanitarian coordinators all testify that the program is
insufficient.  Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck have both
resigned after working as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in
Iraq and called for a lifting of the sanctions.  Scott
Ritter and Richard Butler, former weapons inspectors in
Iraq, have also called for the end of the economic

Iraq is presented as a threat to its neighbors.  I recently
returned from spending time in Jordan, touching Iraq's
western border.  The Jordanians did not feel threatened by
Iraq; in fact, a U.S. consular official said the Jordanian
government encourages the United States to lift the
sanctions every time she meets with them. Turkey regularly
invades Northern Iraq to pursue Kurdish rebel groups; they
do not seem to fear Iraq's supposed threat.  And we all know
what would happen if Iraq were to invade Kuwait!

In March, Scott Ritter wrote in the Boston Globe, "...from a
qualitative standpoint, Iraq has in fact been disarmed...
The chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range ballistic
missile programs that were a real threat in 1991 had, by
1998, been destroyed or rendered harmless."  Even if Iraq
had the stockpiles of weapons to threaten its neighbors, any
offensive on the part of Hussein's regime would result in
massive retaliation from the United States and allies.
Though Saddam Hussein has proven himself to be a brutal
dictator, he has never acted in a suicidal manner.

The people I talked to in Jordan and the West Bank were all
angry at the U.S. position of starving Iraqi children in
order to disarm it, while turning a blind-eye to Israel's
similarly illegal nuclear weapons program.

The sanctions are an unqualified failure.  Saddam Hussein is
more firmly entrenched in power than he was before the
sanctions.  The lowest estimates of child mortality as a
result of the sanctions are 500,000 in 10 years.  The sad
ironic fact is that children are paying for an invasion that
they were not even alive to witness. Furthermore, the
sanctions give Saddam Hussein the ultimate excuse for every
misery of the Iraqi people.  The sanctions actually cause a
rise in nationalism; instead of

viewing Saddam Hussein's brutal, corrupt regime as the
oppressor, the oppressor becomes the governments in
Washington D.C. and London  the only two Security Council
members that support continuing sanctions.  Thus, unless the
sanctions were designed to punish the innocent and further
the rule of a dictator; they have failed.  They certainly
have not brought stability to the Middle East.

There are those who blame Saddam Hussein for the plight of
his people.  Indeed, Saddam has not invested his earnings
from black market oil over the last 10 years in anything for
his people. However, I find it disgusting that people can
actually justify a policy which results in numerous deaths
and suffering by saying someone else can stop it if he
really wanted to.  The world knows that Saddam Hussein is a
brutal dictator.  Withholding clean water from the people
that are already suffering under his regime is a twisted
policy.  Maintaining sanctions that effectively starve the
very people who could be working to undermine his regime
should be considered criminal.

Finally, the very idea that Saddam Hussein is considered a
threat after 10 years of debilitating sanctions suggests
that American taxpayers have been supremely cheated.  In
those years, the Pentagon has spent trillions of dollars on
all kinds of gadgets.  What we have not given to our allies
in the Middle East, we have sold them.  In his book,
Endgame, Scott Ritter points out that the Iraqi Army relies
on technology that is over a generation old.  If Saddam
Hussein, a proven inept military commander, is still a
threat among all that new technology, then Americans should
demand a refund for the wasted Pentagon dollars.

If the United States truly wants to see a stable Middle
East, it will need to pursue a more enlightened policy than
starving the people in one country while heavily arming the
other countries.

Christopher Mitchell is a senior at Macalester College in
St. Paul.  He recently spent 4 months studying in the Middle
East on a Peace and Conflict program.  He can be reached at

----christopher mitchell